Have you ever sat down on the couch next to your dog, and he lets out a huge, human-like sigh?
Why do they do this? Are they upset, depressed, or is it just something they do to relax?
The true answer is… no one knows!
Experts believe, for the most part, that dogs sigh for the same reasons people do: to enunciate the situation they are currently in.
For instance, if your dog just came in from a long run and sighs, he is telling you “whew, Mommy, that was a hard run – I’m done!”
If, however, he sighs while he is trying to fall asleep, then this is his way of saying “Wow, I’m tired. Time to relax now and go to sleep.”
Dogs use sighs to further communicate their mood. If you tune into your dog closely enough, then it should be rather easy for you to decode your dog’s sigh.
Ultimately, you should watch your dog’s body language for clues as to why he is sighing.
Keep reading to learn more about why your dog may enjoy the occasional sigh.
Reasons for Dog Sighing
There are many situations that can prompt a sigh out of your dog.
Dogs use sighs as another way to communicate with you. He may feel tired, content, or frustrated.
However, every dog is different, and so the reason for one dog sighing may be entirely different from the reason another dog sighs.
Here are some common reasons why dogs may enjoy sighing.
When a dog sighs with his eyes half-closed, then he is telling you he is happy.
You may notice an eyes-half-closed pupper sighing while you’re petting his noggin, for instance.
He may also sigh when you give him a hug. Experts aren’t entirely sure why that is, but it could surely be a sign that he loves what you’re doing, and it makes him feel safe.
If your pup sighs at you with his eyes fully open, then he is trying to tell you he feels disappointed about something.
Maybe he wants to go for a walk with you, but it is raining outside.
Maybe he wants to play with his favorite toy, but it is stuck under the couch.
He uses a sigh to tell you to pay attention to him because he is feeling unsettled about something.
If your pup is feeling relaxed, with his ears soft and his head on his paws, he may sigh to express how relaxed and contented he feels.
If you properly exercise your dog regularly, then you know all too well that contented sigh of a dog who feels sufficiently played out.
Conversely, if your dog has been trying to play with you all day and you have not engaged him, his sigh may tell you he officially gives up.
It’s All in the Eyes
To try to decode what your dog is trying to tell you with his sigh, you need to pay close attention to his eyes.
He will often pair a facial expression with his sigh – or any other noise he makes.
You can also rely on how your dog holds his eyes insofar as whether to encourage his sighing or not.
For instance, if he’s doing that eyes-open-while-sighing thing, then he is telling you that you are stressing him out or upsetting him. You should try to avoid doing again whatever you did to make him feel that way.
Similarly, if he’s sighing with his eyes half-closed, then whatever you are doing seems to feel pleasing to him, and you should continue, like petting him.
Dogs tell us how they want us to treat them – we just have to make sure we are listening to what they are trying to tell us.
Is It Really a Sigh? Other Kinds of Dog Noises
In addition to sighs, we all know dogs can bark, growl, and whimper.
What is important to understand is that just because a dog is growling, for example, this does not necessarily mean he is an aggressive dog.
There are a variety of reasons why a dog may growl or grumble at you.
Sometimes he feels playful and he is expressing this to you.
It is important to remember that a playful growl sounds much different than an angry growl.
You know when a dog is warning you to back off – particularly because he also bares his teeth.
If he is just playing around with you, then the growl may actually sound funny! Like, yeah, you tell ‘em!
However, if your normally quiet dog starts making noises more regularly, you may want to pay attention to his health.
Sounds like groaning and whimpering may be playful, but they may also be a sign that something is wrong, especially if he also coughs or struggles to breathe.
Usually they will pair a “something is wrong” sound with a bodily action, so keep a close eye on your dog if he starts acting out of the ordinary.
You may think your dog feels tired when he yawns, but this is not always the case.
Dogs will often yawn as a method of relieving stress or expressing confusion.
So, if you’re arguing with your significant other, and you notice your dog yawning, the situation is probably stressing him out.
Huffing, Puffing, and “Gorfing”
When your dog huffs, puffs or “gorfs”, this is him taking in air quickly, and then letting it out just as quickly in a mix of a sigh and a bark.
This is another way by which dogs relieve their stress. It can also serve as a warning that if he may be more likely to engage in aggressive behavior at that moment.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that he is about to get mean. But it almost always means that he may take things too far during playtime, when you’ll have to stop him before he plays too rough.
Moans and Groans
Puppies tend to let out low moans, which you might mistake for a sigh. These little moans tell you they feel utterly content being close to their family – whether that family is canine or human.
You may notice an uptick in moaning and groaning as your dog gets older, as he may develop arthritis in his later years.
A happier reason why a dog may gently moan is when they feel sleepy or while they are dreaming.
You know the kind, those little “woof, woof, woofs” and moans they make when they appear to be running through fields of flowers in their dreams.
And we all know how much dogs love belly rubs – another action guaranteed to get some happy little moans out of your dog!
Dogs whine for a variety of reasons. They may be telling you they feel excited, distressed, or scared, or they’re just doing it because they know you like it.
The best way to tell the difference between a happy or excited whine and a distressed whine is the pitch of the whine near the end.
If the dog feels distressed, his whine will rise to a higher pitch at the end.
You may notice this kind of whine in the morning, right before you leave for work for the day.
This is your dog’s way of expressing his separation anxiety at the idea of you leaving him.
You can talk to your vet about possible medications to give him to ease his anxiety.
However, if you know your schedule will keep you away from home for long periods, then it’s a good idea to research dog temperaments before you buy a dog.
That way, you can know in advance which breed(s) can tolerate such a schedule and wouldn’t mind your leaving them home along for hours at a time.
However, a happy or excited dog’s whine will either remain the same until the end or drop in pitch at the end.
Sighs as Signs of Illness
If your dog is sighing as a byproduct of feeling ill, then it is important you take him to the vet right away.
If your dog is frequently sighing and groaning, for instance, this is almost always a sign that he is feeling pain.
While you may not be able to see that anything is wrong, he may have something going on internally that a vet needs to look at.
You should also take your dog in if you think he is wheezing, not sighing, as this may be a sign of a respiratory issue.
Sighing can also be a sign of lethargy. If your dog is not interested in playing, eating, or is not responding to you, then you should run – not walk – to the vet.
Ultimately, before you panic that anything is wrong, you should double-check your dog’s body language and compare it to his sigh. A dog’s sigh may mean nothing more than, I’m really content right now, and that is, more often than not, exactly what it means.